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Dating Violence Among Teens - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dating Violence Among Teens

CBS 11 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

With the start of school, parents need to be aware of when they need to be concerned about violence in their teen’s relationship.

Depression is Rising:

Dating violence among teens is a very real phenomenon that has increased enormously in the last five years due to the increasing rates of depression and anxiety in teens and twentysomethings. A new study reports that more cases of severe mental illness are being reported among college students than a decade ago.

Parents Should Be Aware:

Parents should be aware that domestic violence in adolescent dating relationships peaks in high school with around 45% of all kids experiencing violence at the hands of a partner. Once a teen is abused or becomes the abuser, the pattern tends to continue with both sexual and emotional violence increasing in high college.

Here are the specific signs to look for if you're worried that your teen is a victim of violence:

Avoiding The Truth:

Teens who are being abused are generally shell shocked. They are literally frozen by the stress. They have no idea what is going on and fail to protect themselves. Many kids from good homes are naive about what abuse is, normalize the actions of the abusive partner and make excuses for the abuser until it is too late.

It Begins with Verbal Violence:

Parents should be on the lookout for verbally abusive texts, emails, phone calls or outright face-to-face shouting. Emotional violence is usually the first type of abuse in a relationship and is the most common type of relationship violence.

Teen Becoming Isolated:

Abusive partners prefer that their partner remains isolated and unable to turn to others for help. In addition, the abused partner isolate herself from friends and family. She seems to shed her former relationships—best friends, family connections, socializing patterns. She stops responding to others and denies she is being victimized.

Increasing Anxiety and Depression:

Domestic abuse victims show signs of anxiety and depression such as agitation, sadness, withdrawal, low energy, emotional mood swings, tearfulness and a decline in functioning at school.

Progressive Pain:

Look for signs of increasing disconnection from others, less responsiveness and avoidant behavior. She is locked in a cage of agony and doesn’t know how to ask for help.

When you hear "domestic violence," you probably think of a man hitting a woman. But that's not always the case:

These days, it seems that neither gender is safe. On average, about half of women have been a victim of domestic violence along with 27% of men. However, this number is probably low for men because of under-reporting of abuse. In fact, we’re hearing more and more about women stalking men who have rejected them.

The causes for each type of domestic violence seem to be quite different. Male-on-female violence seems to be much more about control and domination while female-on-male violence is more verbally expressive and is used to communicate pain, jealousy, frustration, and other emotions.

Parents, here's what you can do to help:

Many family and friends prefer not to get involved out of respect for personal boundaries. However, this is one time that you need to speak up as a parent. Caring about your child now involves compassionate intervention. Do not turn your back.

Gather Evidence:

Collect the observations you have had and organize them into a coherent conversation. Specify behaviors you have seen and conversations you may have overheard or read online or through texting.

Stand Your Ground:

Domestic violence at this age is especially lethal since adolescent brains are often immature and impulsive. They literally lack the critical thinking skills to put it all together. That’s where a smart parent comes in.

Get the Community Involved:

If you present your evidence and they are still resistant, go to their community of friends, family, religious leaders and ask them to help. For more serious cases, please seek out a psychologist. However difficult these steps are, they may very well save your child’s life.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

Sources:

JAMA

Archives Journals (July 8, 2008) Relationship Violence Appears Common Among College Students


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